When did it generally stop being the norm to keep chickens in cities?


11 Years
Jan 20, 2011
Oakland, California
A neighbor posted this on her anti-chickens in the city rant on Nextdoor:

"....And another thing we never had them here and in my opinion I don't want them here so if they want to raise them go somewhere else and raise them..."

I replied that chickens were actually the norm in cities - probably until the '50's - but I'm wondering if anyone can give me more info about this.... I imagine the advent of the supermarket may have had something to do with it, but I really don't know. I still see old chicken coops in the back yards of older homes in the S.F. Bay Area, where I live....



8 Years
Apr 6, 2014
Melrose Park Illinois
I do not have an answer to your exact question, but here is my view or opinion as to why things happen as such.
Chicago Ill. 3rd largest in USA and you are allowed to keep chickens and even roosters. Don't expect to be able to raise a farm's worth, and as long as your chickens are not a nuisance to your neighbors, you are allowed to keep them. Not allowed to slaughter your stock. (I am all for that ruling) . Then you travel to some adjacent suburbs, and they do not allow you to keep even 1 as pet. The city councils of these small villages make the rules. Council members are from the human race. The human race is very diverse in logical thinking.!!! Some rulings are as a result of the village inhabitants placing pressure on their local government to install certain regulations. Some of these inhabitants believe that certain things bring the value of their property down. Local council member just take the easy road and just say....... OK no more this or that or whatever. PROBLEM SOLVED.
As a further example, some suburbs ban the presence of pickup trucks even in your driveway. Those living in the Chicago area know which they are. I'm sure other metro areas have similarly infected awkward thinking as well.


Free Ranging
13 Years
Mar 19, 2009
Probably more like the 1930s, definitely no longer common in the 1950s
Not so. I remember my grandmother had a flock of laying hens in her yard in the 1950's. She lived in a residential area of Portland Oregon. A lot of her neighbors had chickens, too. I'm not talking about five or six hens, either. My grandmother had at least 25, maybe a lot more.


Jun 18, 2015
In the Sonoran Desert NW of Phoenix
What a great question!!!
I remember visiting some of my grandparents friends in the 60's, one in particular that kept chickens, quail, pheasant, duck and rabbit for meats, eggs and to give to family and friends.
I would have to say that easy access to food products thru grocery stores has definitely had the biggest effect over time.
The current reversal in the trend has a number of causes not the least of which is food cost. That coupled with a growing concern over food safety and quality seems to be taking many back to simpler times.
The theraputic effects of raising ones own food is one of the hidden benefits that home gardeners have been experiencing and chickens just seem to be the perfect addition.
Eggs, meat, compost material for the garden, and last but certainly not least, there is Chicken TV. It doesn't get much more satisfying.
If this ain't livin', then kick me out!!!
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Team Spina Bifida
8 Years
Feb 25, 2014
Northwestern Wyoming
My Coop
My Coop
Chicken keeping in urban areas was not only allowed, it was encouraged during WW2. It helped with the war effort - the more resources that could be diverted to those in the trenches the better. Food rationing coupons were the norm, and raising chickens in the backyard took the pressure off that program as well.

I really like this question. I served on our town's planning and zoning commission as well as on the town council, and I can tell you first hand that our responsibility was to take complaints seriously. Imagine if the shoe was on the other foot, and it was you complaining to your city officials. Do you want them to listen to your concerns and take action if appropriate, or ignore you? In a town of 600 people, there's no place to hide. Once you've had a discussion, decided on a remedy if it's needed, and acted upon it, you then have to face the people you've affected every day at the post office, the only convenience store in town, or taking your grandkids to the park. It's not an easy job, it's often a thankless job, and no matter what you do, someone is mad.

I know my grandmother had chickens in her backyard in the '50s in a little town called Luverne, Minnesota. I don't recall how many she had, but she happily provided eggs to her neighbors at no charge. My mother worked in the hatchery near that little town, Blue Ribbon Hatchery, for many years.

I'm following this thread with great interest. The history of keeping backyard chickens could be a fascinating topic! Thanks for starting this thread.
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8 Years
Aug 29, 2012
I would imagine they died out with the coming of the modern age for the same reason people stopped growing their own food in a home garden as standard practice. We all became consumers rather than producers. Life became about fast and easy and growing your own food be in Veges or eggs doesn't fit in there.

You could really argue that just like growing your own food has made a comeback for all those health and environmental reasons such as the costs to the environment of shipping things over great distances, so should eggs you produce your self.
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Free Ranging
13 Years
Mar 19, 2009
Or not. As I remember the backyard flocks decreased when it became so much cheaper to buy eggs than it was to produce them yourself. That is still true, by the way. There are any number of reasons you may want to produce your own eggs, milk and meat, but economics isn't one of them.


6 Years
Jan 14, 2015
When manicured green lawns and shrubs became a status symbol. Showing you were well off enough to devote your land and resources to the ornamental instead of productive.


8 Years
Jun 22, 2013
"....And another thing we never had them here and in my opinion I don't want them here so if they want to raise them go somewhere else and raise them..."
I really don't get people's logic sometimes...just because they are "farm animals" and go against suburban norms, they are automatically these disgusting animals who don't belong in the suburbs. If it is a well maintained coop neighbors won't even know it is there, besides clucking which you can barely even hear. Dogs are bigger, louder, and arguably more of a nuisance, yet they will never be banned, because they are "pets" and not "farm animals" and people can't really see that chickens can be backyard pets too. Just because they can't play fetch doesn't mean they can't be a pet.

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